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Finding God in Solitude

The Personal Piety of Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) and Its Influence on His Pastoral Ministry


Donald S. Whitney

Finding God in Solitude explores the devotional piety of one of America’s most important religious figures, Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758) of Massachusetts. From his childhood to his death shortly after becoming president of Princeton, and especially from his Christian conversion through his Northampton pastorate and the Great Awakening to his missionary work among Indians on the frontier, Edwards’ personal spirituality is evaluated, particularly in terms of its impact upon his pastoral ministry. Specifically, the influence of his private piety on his public labors is considered in terms of his pastoral relationships, his pastoral preaching, and his pastoral publications. Edwards’ piety and his pastoral ministry are also assessed in light of their relative consistency with both the English Puritan and Colonial New England Puritan heritage from which Edwards was descended. This book would be useful in courses on Jonathan Edwards, American religious history, Colonial New England, Puritanism, Christian spirituality, or pastoral ministry.
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Three: The Pastoral Ministry of Jonathan Edwards


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Jonathan Edwards was a private man, forced by his calling to lead a public life. The nexus of the private and public produced the most agonizing crisis of his life, his removal from the pastorate of the church in Northampton in 1750. From a strictly human perspective, Edwards’ non-indulgent, solitary piety was both the source of his greatness as an example of Christian spirituality and the cause of his downfall in pastoral ministry. This chapter is an evaluation of that pastoral ministry from the perspective of three of its major components—Edwards’ pastoral relationships, his pastoral preaching, and his pastoral publications. As spiritual shepherd of God’s flock in Northampton, Edwards understood that his role was in large part—like that of a literal shepherd—to lead, feed, and protect the flock under his care. This he did in person, by privately counseling and publicly preaching/teaching, and in absentia through his writings. In particular this section of the book will consider how Edwards’ piety influenced each of these three segments of his ministry, as well as how he emphasized piety to his parishioners in the context of each component.

“Thirteen Hours Every Day in His Study”

One of the most famous lines in all the mountains of literature about Edwards comes from the pen of Hopkins. The ministerial apprentice of the Northampton pastor said of Edwards, “He commonly spent thirteen hours every day in...

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